Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on October 30, 2023
6 Common Cold Calling Objections and How to Respond
What is Cold Calling?
What is Objection Handling? Why is It Important?
Common Cold Calling Objections
Customers nowadays are very risk-averse regarding their time and money – especially over the phone, where they can’t verify that they’re talking to a trustworthy individual. Because of that, a salesperson making cold calls to prospects has their work cut out for them, faced with the herculean task of building trust and persuading the prospective client to go forward with a potential sale without relying on physical cues.
But no matter how stressful it can be, cold calling is still one of the best ways to generate leads. It helps you learn what you need to know about a prospect while hastening their progress along the sales pipeline. With this in mind, ambitious salespeople hoping to fill their sales funnels with strong prospects would be wise to learn the best ways to use cold calling effectively.
Proper and masterful objection handling is a nuanced skill that takes years to develop. If you’re new to sales and cold calling and haven’t developed those skills yet, don’t worry. This guide will go over the six most common cold calling objections and how to respond to them to win a sale for your business.
A cold call is an unsolicited sales call to a potential customer.
Consumers may have concerns or issues with a purchase, called objections. It’s a sales professional’s duty to alleviate these concerns in a process called objection handling.
When cold calling, potential clients often have objections to the phone call itself, the price of the product, their purchasing authority, their need, and the timeframe for their need.
What is Cold Calling?
Cold calling is when a sales rep makes an unsolicited phone call to a potential customer with the hopes of eventually converting them into a sale.
Unlike other sales calls, with a cold call, a prospect isn’t expecting your call and probably doesn’t know anything about your business. It’s the sales rep’s job to research and find out if a potential customer might be a good fit for the company, and craft a winning sales pitch to match.
Though some may decry cold calling as an intrusive and ineffective marketing channel when compared to emails and online messages, the numbers don’t lie: according to the RAIN group, 82% of buyers accept meetings with sellers who reach out first. You might think you’re annoying your prospect, but a proactive seller is exactly what prospects want.
While the inevitable goal of any sales call is to eventually get to a purchase decision, your own business’s goals for cold calls might be a little different: you might only hope to introduce yourself and test the waters, qualify the lead, schedule another call, or secure a promise from them to come into your store.
Your lead is unlikely to say “yes” to whatever you’re asking for on the first go-around. Your prospects are busy people, or they might have some other factors holding them back from purchasing.
These limiting factors and concerns are called objections, and it’s the salesperson’s job to uncover and alleviate objections to close the sale using a process called objection handling.
Though “handling” might sound synonymous with “management,” objection handling is actually a two-way street. It’s not about bulldozing through a “no,” but rather working together with the client to reach a deal that satisfies both parties.
If the prospect gives a hard “no” and shows no willingness to talk, it’s time to back off and follow up with other leads. In comparison, a “but” or “maybe” is a good thing – it means the prospect is thinking critically about your product or service and wants to discuss it further. This sort of objection could mean the potential customer misunderstands your product or its value offering.
In fact, 60 percent of customers say no four times before finally saying yes, according to marketing consultancy Invesp. In other words, a good salesperson will have to push past those first few “nos” and overcome the customer’s objections in order to get to a sale.
Sales reps that have mastered objection handling build stronger relationships with customers and streamline sales efficiency, closing many more deals than teams that have yet to figure it out.
Common Cold Calling Objections
But what sort of objections will your potential customers have?
When cold calling, there are five basic types of common sales objections: calling objections, budget objections, authority objections, need objections, and timeframe objections.
While the first category applies specifically to the issue of talking over the phone, the remaining four collectively refer to the BANT (budget, authority, need, and timeframe) criteria, which are the four criteria salespeople use to determine if a lead is ready and able to buy their product or not. Naturally, then, the most common objections to any sales conversation focus on these essential criteria.
Once you’ve learned how to overcome each type of cold call objection, you can handle any variation a recalcitrant consumer may throw at you. Let’s review two calling objections and one for each BANT criterion and look at how you could respond.
1. “Can you just send me the information in an email?”
There are three potential reasons why a lead might say this.
The easiest case is if the lead genuinely has an issue with communicating over the phone: maybe it makes them uncomfortable that they can’t see the conversation partner’s face or they’re hard of hearing. In that case, accommodate your prospect by shifting to a communication channel that makes them feel more comfortable. But tack on some questions to ensure that the client is truly interested in what you have to say, and that they’re only taking issue with the means of communication.
“Yes, of course, I can send you an email. Are there any specific details you’d like me to include? Or, if it’s more convenient for you, I can set up a Zoom call instead so I can demonstrate first-hand how our product can help you.”
If you sense from their tone of voice that they’re simply busy at the moment, then it’d be unwise to switch to email, which is much easier for busy people to ignore. Phone conversations are much faster and more memorable for prospects, so you should ask if there’s a better time to call them.
“Yes, I understand you’re probably very busy at the moment. Is there a better time when I can call you back? Perhaps the same time next week?”
Finally, if the prospect’s tone is dismissive and you sense they’ll likely ignore your email, you should push forward with the conversation and finish your value demonstration while you have their attention right now.
“I understand you’re quite busy, and I don’t want to add more clutter to your inbox. But if you could spare just a minute, I can give you a full explanation and we can be done for today.”
With this last response, though, you’re gambling that you can give a compelling pitch in a full minute that piques their interest and encourages them to continue the conversation of their own volition.
2. “Is this a scam?”
A classic issue with cold calls is that your prospect can’t verify your identity and may think you’re a scammer from a call center.
To combat this objection, honesty is key: be completely transparent about who you are, what company you work for, and how and why you came to contact your prospect. Give enough information for your prospect to verify your identity online. Once you’ve established your identity, build your authority and reputation by highlighting previous client success stories.
“I’m [name] from [company]. I found your profile on LinkedIn through our mutual connection [friend’s name], and thought that you might want to hear about a way to help your business excel.”
If the prospect is leery from the get-go, you’re unlikely to make a sale from the first conversation. Instead, shift gears to focus on building rapport and work to secure a promise for another phone call or demonstration where you can progress the sale a little more. Remember, slow and steady wins the sale!
3. “How much does it cost? We can’t afford that.”
These next four objections focus around the BANT criteria, starting off with a budget objection. If your prospect has an issue with the price, there could be two issues at play.
First, they might simply undervalue your product. In that case, you should highlight the value and benefits your product can bring them.
“I understand that price is a concern for you. But our product can actually help you save money in the long run by… It also includes features such as….”
If you continue the conversation and discover the prospect truly doesn’t have the budget to purchase your product at full price, you should instead negotiate the scope of the deal, such as by removing a few add-ons or shortening the duration of the deal.
“I want you to be happy with your purchase. What parts of the package do you like, and what parts do you dislike? I’m sure if we trim down the package a bit, we can create a great deal for you.”
4. “You’re talking to the wrong person.”
Next up is an authority objection where you’re not talking to someone who’s qualified to make a purchase decision on behalf of their company. The person you called might be in the wrong department of the company, or they might not be high enough in the chain of command to make purchases. If that’s the case, don’t hang up – use the conversation as leverage to find the person you need.
“I understand. Maybe you could point me in the right direction to someone with the right purchasing authority, who might be interested in improving [your product’s value proposition]. Which department or team handles purchasing decisions at your company?”
Hopefully, the person you called can refer you to the right person. In any case, even when you’re not talking to the right person, be sure to stay polite and highlight your product’s value – you never know who they might talk to in their company, and they might be able to back you up if the company is unsure about buying or not.
5. “Our business is doing well, and we don’t need to change anything. We’re already using a competitor’s services.”
Both of these lines demonstrate a need objection, where the prospect doesn’t see a relevant need for your product. In these situations, dig a little deeper into what things are like at their company now, and try to find pain points that your product could solve.
“That’s great to hear! What’s your current process? Are there any parts that could be better?”
As they talk, you can subtly bring up how your own product could enhance their current operations and nurture their interest from there. If they’re using a competitor’s product, highlight the key differences between your product and theirs, showcasing how your product could give them more bang for their buck.
6. “We’re not looking for this sort of product at the moment, and we’re not ready to buy.”
Finally, with a timeframe objection, the prospect sees a need but doesn’t consider the matter urgent. To overcome these sorts of objections, dive a little deeper into their company’s goals and explain how your product can help them get there faster than their current methods. Try to find out why they don’t see their issues as urgent – this might actually be a cover-up for another issue with money or authority.
“I understand that your company might not see a need for this at the moment. But what do your long-term goals and needs look like? Our product can help you get there faster by…”
If you discover that the target company’s hands are truly tied in the short term, you might not be able to make a sale today after all. In that case, put a pin in their profile and call them back later to see if their situation’s changed.
“Hi! This is [name] from [company]. We spoke on [date of the previous call] about your company’s situation. I just wanted to check in with you. How is your company doing now?”
Sales objection handling can be difficult, especially over the phone when the recipient can simply hang up if they don’t like what you’re saying. That’s why sales reps should follow these tried-and-true responses to understand the truth behind a potential customer’s objections, build rapport, and showcase your product’s value to move you closer to an eventual sale.
With practice, any sales rep will eventually become a cold calling master, expertly navigating this underutilized sales channel to reach potential clients directly, closing sales faster than other reps can say, “Hi, how are you?”
Why should I cold call my prospect? Can’t I just email or message them?
Calling, emailing, and online messaging represent a sliding scale of personal attention to the client, with online messaging via tools like Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram being the most casual. In general, we recommend not using online messages for sales.
There’s no guarantee your prospect regularly checks their chat apps and social media. And if they do, a social media message is generally seen as unprofessional; they may even think it’s a scam!
Emails might be convenient for the prospect because they can open and respond to them at any time, but let’s be real: who likes clearing their inbox? If you email your prospect, there’s a good chance that your sales conversation will take days between responses, if they even choose to answer at all.
A phone call is lightning-fast by comparison, streamlining your sales conversation and moving the potential client much quicker to a completed sale. Plus, phone calls allow you to hear the other person’s tone of voice, helping you navigate the sales conversation with more emotional intelligence. This increases your chance of building a rapport with the lead.
What do I do once I overcome the prospect’s objections?
If you’ve overcome all of the prospect’s objections, that means you’ve got a hot sales opportunity! It would be a shame to fumble the sale at the last moment, so be proactive in asking for the sale by using hard techniques such as a direct close, urgency close, or walk away close, or a soft technique such as the assumptive close, summary close, or alternative close.
What are some tips and best practices before cold calling?
An easy tip for cold calling is to use positive language. For example, instead of saying “no,” begin your rebuttals with “I understand, but…” to maintain a more conversational tone.
Then, when you’re on the call, it’s best to always ask for more information about your client’s company and the way they do things – the more they talk, the more chances you have to find a pain point that your company’s product can solve.
What should I do before a cold call?
Before you pick up the phone, be sure you have a winning sales script prepared that will entice your potential customer and convince them of your product’s worth.
You’ll also want to psyche yourself up and ensure that you’re mentally ready for the upcoming conversation.
How do I get leads’ phone numbers for cold calling?
There are a few ways to get the business phone numbers of potential customers. To find a specific lead’s phone number, you could search on Google, social media, and their company’s website. If you’re looking to obtain multiple leads’ phone numbers at once, you can purchase a list of phone numbers from a lead database.
What should I do if the prospect says they’re not interested?
If the prospect truly isn’t interested or their objections are insurmountable, that’s okay. Thank them for their time and move on to your next lead.
Alternatively, if the former prospect isn’t too busy, you could ask them to recommend other people in their industry who might be interested in learning about your product. More so than any online research could tell you, a fellow insider in the industry is likely to know who else might fit your ideal customer profile or have a need for your product.